Birch Burl Bowl

birch burl 10inch

10 inch birch burl

It started as an unsightly growth from a birch tree, a piece I picked up in a clearance of and old wood workshop. Never having turned burl wood (burr for the UK reader) I wasn’t sure what to expect in preparation time, turning and sanding. Initially I was going to keep the bark and started by using a steel brush to clean it up. In the end I completely removed the outer skin by hacking away any remaining bits of bark. When the blank was clean I drilled out a 5 inch flat with a rather large drill bit. This allowed me to screw the wood onto a faceplate to hold it on the lathe. In this position I turned the outside smooth and finished off by creating a groove to match up all the sides. I shaped the base to fit the lathe chuck, so that I could mount it the other way round. Turning the inside with various chisels eventually produced this 10 inch  (25 cm) diameter bowl. The grain goes in all directions, making turning quite tricky, and sanding such a strange shape took many hours. But it was worth it for the shine highlighting the figure in the grain.

In fact, it inspired me to try a few other pieces that I had since obtained. These here are maple burls, one from a thin slice, the other from an almost square block. Such uneven blocks are somewhat unnerving in the lathe: the spinning makes the edges invisible, and positioning the chisels for cutting takes a lot of care and sharpening.

maple burl 8inch

Maple burl, 8 inch across

maple burl 6inch

Maple burl, 6 inch diameter


  1. I really like your birch burl bowl, I’ve been working on one myself with red cedar but its a technique getting it on the lathe in the first place if you’ve never tried. Well done!

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